Scotland's Nations League draw brings Group of Heritage - and there's one country to pick on

Ronaldo, Modric and Lewandowski could lie in wait – and maiden foray in League A could have been more glamourous

Well, it could have been a lot worse. Alternatively, if glamour and box office value are the only considerations, it might have been a lot better.

It could have been France, Portugal and Spain. What it has turned out to be is Croatia, Portugal and Poland. Scotland’s group for their debut in League A of the Nations League doesn’t look completely unnavigable.

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There is glamour in the obvious form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who at the age of 39 has 205 caps and counting. He’s ably supported in the glamour stakes by Luka Modric, the elegant midfield statesman for Croatia and Robert Lewandowski, Poland’s master goalscorer. All are in their mid to late 30s. Group of Death? Maybe not. It is, though, a Group of Football Heritage. Of course, it is entirely possible that one, two and maybe even all three of these icons might have retired by the time the fourth edition of the Nations League kicks off in September, following Euro 2024. Scotland have their own heritage. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon, at 41, will be the oldest player in the tournament if selected. He has just signed a new one-year contract at Hearts and isn’t looking like stopping anytime soon.

Poland's veteran striker Robert Lewandowski could lie in wait for Scotland.Poland's veteran striker Robert Lewandowski could lie in wait for Scotland.
Poland's veteran striker Robert Lewandowski could lie in wait for Scotland.

If nothing else, Croatia's presence in Group A1 means Steve Clarke and Scotland have the opportunity for some fairly swift revenge. With Modric to the fore, Croatia knocked Clarke’s side out of Euro 2020 with a 3-1 win in the final group game at Hampden. Scotland haven't beaten Portugal since 1980, long before Ronaldo was born. Poland, meanwhile, could give Scotland a fighting chance of avoiding bottom place and automatic relegation. Third place means a play-off with a runner-up from the B set-up while a top two finish would take Scotland into an inaugural quarter-final stage next Spring.

Considering 54 teams were being drawn, the ceremony itself was mercifully brief once the real business got going. There was the usual preamble, including the premiere of a new Nations League anthem which was the obligatory slice of Euro pop with swirling violins. Clarke can take or leave the schmaltz but he and SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell will be happy with the match-ups on this pre-Valentine’s Day trip to Paris.